Thigpen rallies Essex forces around Oliver

Essex County Democratic Committee Chairman Phil Thigpen called an urgent Essex delegation teleconference today.

The subject? 

The future of Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-34).

“This delegation is still behind Speaker Oliver,” Thigpen told “They reaffirmed their support this morning and I’m confident she will get another term as speaker.”

The chairman’s move came amid speculation that other centers of party power may be mobilizing to oust Oliver.

The Star-Ledger reported today that veteran state Sen. Nick Sacco (D-32) of Hudson County has been in dialogue with South Jersey Democratic Leader George Norcross III.

Norcross has not been shy about publicly expressing his frustration not only with Oliver but with Oliver backers Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo and Newark North Ward Democratic Leader Steve Adubato, Jr.

The South Jerseyan broods about Oliver’s opposition to education reform and says he does not believe Essex Democrats have done enough to sell charter schools, the Opportunity Scholarship Act and merit pay to voters.

Assemblyman Vincent Prieto (D-32) of Hudson County wants the speaker’s job, according to a source close to the assemblyman.

Sacco and Norcross have had their discussions – including one recently in South Jersey – without the input of Assembly Majority Leader Joe Cryan (D-20), who this summer and fall conducted talks with caucus members to gauge their interest in a fight to relieve Oliver.

“Joe does not want Vinny for the speakership,” said a source, in answer to a question about whether Norcross was inadvertently working with his old foe Cryan against a common political enemy in Oliver.

“Joe wants to be speaker and Vinny wants to be speaker,” the source added.

The intel about Cryan wanting the job for himself runs counter to other sources who have told in the past that Cryan would favor an alternative to Oliver – not necessarily himself.

According to Thigpen, again, Essex County still wants Oliver.

Thigpen rallies Essex forces around Oliver